News & Updates

Students are Leaders

Keely O’Gorman speaking about the bill she wrote for the MA legislature to ban plastic straws.

There is hardly a week now that we do not read or hear about young people taking the initiative in our struggles to cope with the challenges of a pandemic, a recession, police brutality and racial injustice – and all of it against the backdrop of unrelenting climate change.

On June 6th, I attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Great Barrington. It was organized, in part, by Calista Nelson, a senior at the local high school and her friend Langston Stahler and drew a larger crowd than any other event in Great Barrington before. Calista led through the action, announcing speakers and giving a short speech herself. I had met her before when she was tabling outside the local co-op selling raffle tickets for a school-related cause. A friend of mine who used to be her teacher also told me that she was one of the leaders in her school trying to organize a school chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Also in our neighborhood and from the same high school, two girls decided to serve meals and soothing skin balm for health care workers.

And then there are the organizers of the Northampton Cooler Communities fair, one of whom, Amelia Bourne, helped at her school after it was turned into an emergency shelter for homeless neighbors, offering games to the residents and finding other creative ways to stay entertained.

Young people have also been increasingly vocal in the climate movement, pressuring fossil fuel companies to change their ways. So much so that OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo was reported to have said that “unscientific” attacks by climate activists were “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward.”

So this article is a big shout out to those teenagers and students. Young people who, with the support of their parents or mentors, are not afraid to take risks for a purpose, take responsibility, keep learning amongst great challenges and use their voices and talents to uplift those around them. They are skillful and energizing each other and older generations.

Having just turned 60, I cannot think of a more gratifying way to spend my time than to support and work alongside these young people. I am grateful to work for a non-profit, whose goals it is to empower more students in becoming energy champions and climate-educators in their community.

And it makes it all the more important that not just a privileged few but an increasing number of young people realize that their voices count, their actions have an impact and to make sure that they have the financial, emotional and creative resources to shape their future. We don’t know the treasures they can bring to the world until we do.